Although not a touristic place at all, Athénée is so deeply connected with the history and the culture of Athens, that is definitely worth to be in the agenda of every visitor of the city.
Athénée opened its doors for first time on 15th August 1940 as a restaurant and patisserie named Zonar’s. Its first years coincided with truly tough years for the whole country. During those difficult times it managed to be a place of optimism and positiveness. Athénée soon became the favourite haunt of Athens’ political and artistic elite. Major Greek composers, poets and painters, like Manos Hadjidakis, Nikos Gatsos and Minos Argyrakis created some of their masterpieces there. Today some of these poems and musical pieces decorate the walls of the famous cafe. Athenians loved this place for what it was, but also for what it represented. So did many celebrities who would visit Athénée during their stay in Athens, as for example Anthony Quinn and Sophia Loren.
A visit in the renovated Athénée is like a promenade side by side with the long history of Athens city culture. The atmosphere is warm, but not loose. It gives the impression that everything is done following a process, but in a friendly and elegant manner. Small details reveal the intention to silently keep some ties with the elegance and magnificence of the past. For example, coffee is always accompanied with a mint chocolate, the favourite one of Queen Sofia of Spain. The decoration, with touches of 60’s, brings in mind old Zonars. The music is soft and varies from classical to contemporary music with songs of Frank Sinatra, Edith Piaf, Manos Hatzidakis and Alexandre Desplat, among many others. A quintet plays live music everyday from 17:00 to 19:00.
In Athénée you can have your coffee, dessert, brunch, lunch or dinner. The coffee quality is excellent and so is the quality of the desserts, among which the famous “Chicago ice cream” that was first launched in Greece by Athénée. The wine list is brief but adequate, including non-alcoholic wines as well. Regarding the menu, there are both small dishes for a light meal and regular dishes for a proper lunch or dinner. The menu is split in three parts, the international cuisine, the Greek traditional cuisine and the Sushi, which has lately become a Greek favourite.
Daily: 09:00 – late at night.
Cuisine is open 09:00 – 22:15.
Photos by: Eleni Katrakalidi, Paris Tativian, www.lifo.gr, www.dimitrisgoes.com.